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SPACE NEEDED: Three nonprofits will lose their offices next year at 1111 S. Glenstone Ave.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
SPACE NEEDED: Three nonprofits will lose their offices next year at 1111 S. Glenstone Ave.

Preferred Family Health pulls free rent from nonprofits

Spokesman says plans are not yet known for the vacant space on Glenstone Avenue

Posted online

With Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. announcing plans to retake the space, a handful of other nonprofits are being booted from their respective rent-free headquarters at Springfield’s Eleven Eleven building on South Glenstone Avenue.

PFH spokesman Reggie McElhannon said two tenants will remain at the roughly 37,600-square-foot building. Notice for the others was given in late April, following the fallout of a more than $4 million embezzlement scheme involving PFH and several of its former employees.

The third and latest executive, Milton “Rusty” Cranford, charged in the cases pleaded guilty June 7 and awaits sentencing.

The outgoing community groups are Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwest Missouri, Girls on the Run of Southwest Missouri and The Doula Foundation of Mid-America Inc. PFH had been donating office space to each group. They have until Jan. 1, 2019, to move.

Kirksville-based PFH merged in 2015 with Springfield’s Alternative Opportunities Inc., the listed owner of the 1111 S. Glenstone Ave. office building, according to Greene County assessor records.

The building currently is home to PFH’s Springfield offices, as well as Preferred Employment Services, Preferred Youth & Family and Springfield Partners, a partnership with Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri, and The Good Samaritan Boys Ranch.

Spanning five states, PFH provides mental health, substance abuse and medical treatment care, as well as employment services, largely through government funding via Medicaid, Medicare and grants.

McElhannon said he is unaware of specific plans on how PFH plans to occupy the building once its tenants are gone, only noting the nonprofit is restructuring. He said attorney Dave Davis and Christian Radio Springfield will remain at the building to fulfill undisclosed leases.

“With the various challenges we faced recently, we are refocusing some of our efforts,” he said, specifically saying the moves aren’t related to growth or consolidation. “Our structure and everything like that is being re-evaluated. ... All I can say is that I do know all of those kinds of things are being re-evaluated right now.”

Fraud
In late 2017 and early 2018, several PFH employees and an out-of-state lobbyist were implicated by federal prosecutors in various roles in the embezzlement scheme for allegedly defrauding the federal government.

The parties included Cranford, of Rogers, Arkansas; former Rep. Eddie Cooper of Melbourne, Arkansas; and Donald Jones, a Philadelphia political consultant and lobbyist. Each was named as a co-conspirator in the scheme.

The plot included illegal lobbying and advocacy services, as well as unlawful payments and kickbacks, all of which violated the nonprofit’s 501(c)(3) status.

Also implicated were local PFH CEO Marilyn Nolan, Chief Operating Officer Bontiea Goss and her husband Tom Goss, who served as the group’s chief financial officer. McElhannon said the three C-level executives were “terminated” from their positions in January. They have not been charged by federal prosecutors.

McElhannon said PFH President Michael Schwend, of Kirksville, assumed an expanded role to include Nolan’s CEO duties. He said Tom Weber was named CFO, replacing Tom Goss, and the nonprofit no longer staffs a COO.

McElhannon said PFH also created a new position: a chief compliance and ethics officer, which has been filled by Mendie Schoeller. She is an attorney married to Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller.

Co-conspirators
Cooper and Jones were charged in federal court and later pleaded guilty.

Cooper ultimately was forced to forfeit some $450,000 in embezzled earnings to the United States and faces up to five years in prison, according to court records filed with the Western District of Missouri.

Jones was ordered to forfeit nearly $974,000 in embezzled earnings to the federal government and also faces up to five years in prison, according to Western District of Missouri court records.

Neither Cooper nor Jones has been sentenced yet.

Indicted Feb. 20, Cranford – alleged also to have ordered the killing of Jones through an FBI informant – remains listed as an inmate in Greene County Jail.

In a change-of-plea hearing held June 7, Cranford pleaded guilty to receiving more than $3.5 million in illegal payments for his The Cranford Coalition as part of the lobbying and kickback scheme, among other bribery charges, according to a news release from the Western District of Missouri.

Cranford also received another $219,000 in kickbacks related to Jones and Cooper, according to the release. A sentencing hearing for Cranford is pending a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

Lost space
The resulting PFH restructuring means CASA, Girls on the Run and The Doula Foundation were made to hunt for new office space, though executives from each group say they’re grateful for the free rent, previously.

Only GOTR – which works to empower individualism in female youth, organizing an annual 5K – has found new space.

Executive Director Trish McAdams said GOTR is moving down the street this month to Glenstone Square, 1722 S. Glenstone Ave., with undisclosed lease terms.

McAdams said PFH indicated it would be expanding, thereby needing the roughly 1,200 square feet she said GOTR shared with The Doula Foundation.

Doula Foundation CEO Kimberly Costello said PFH officials also notified her group that it would be expanding into the space.

Costello said her group likely will have to cut programming from its roughly $250,000 annual budget to afford a new lease. The group needs about 2,500 square feet for its work providing families with emotional care, advocacy and comfort before, during and after childbirth.

“Obviously this wasn’t something that was in our budget or our plans for the next year,” Costello said. “This came as quite a shock to us. We are desperately looking for a space that could be donated, as well.”

Laura Farmer said CASA has been at the Eleven Eleven building for roughly 15 years.

The group’s executive director said office space has been elusive, noting also that the nonprofit is looking to collaborate with another group on a new spot, similar to The Doula Foundation.

“We’re definitely in the market,” said Farmer, whose group occupies 1,500 square feet in PFH’s building. “Obviously, we’re looking for someone who might have a heart for our organization, who might be willing to offer us office space at a reduced cost or donate that to us.”

CASA appoints volunteer advocates to work on behalf of abused and neglected children in the courts and foster care system.

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